The regional government of Madrid, Spain -- which is deep in the throes of a seemingly intractable economic crisis and brutal government austerity program -- has focused its attention on … parakeets and raccoons. According to Euro Weekly News, the local administrator of the ruling Popular Party, Ignacio Gonzalez, has approved a plan for authorities to capture and kill raccoons and two types of parakeet (monk and rose-ringed) -- all of which are foreign invasive species -- as their populations have exploded in recent years.

The species had been sold as exotic pets up until December 2011, when they became a serious threat to public health and to local fauna and flora. Many former pet owners released their animals into the wild over the past five years. The Weekly News noted parakeets are very aggressive birds, which frequently muscle out pigeons and sparrows from local nests, and also carry parrot disease. The parakeets were imported from India, central Africa and Latin America. Similarly, raccoons, which have no natural predators, drive out otters, prey on smaller creatures, and carry rabies and other diseases.

“There is still time to control their population growth,” Felipe Ruza, deputy director general of the nature conservation department, told El Pais newspaper, before they become a plague. Under the authorized cull program, only licensed hunters with registered weapons will be allowed to kill the creatures. Chemical pest control systems and poisons will not be applied.

Interestingly, Spanish authorities planned to include the American mink in the extermination program, but changed their minds once they realized that these animals resemble such native species like the polecat and beech martin, raising fears that the wrong animals would be killed.

Britain conducted a similar cull of parakeets in 2009 after the noisy birds proliferated across London and the Home Counties.